In many South Asian States it has been a common practice for the superior courts to use suomotu jurisdiction to establish rule of law besides protecting the fundamental rights of the citizens and interestingly Pakistan is no exception to this. Constitutionally, the supreme court of Pakistan is authorised having every right to take suomotu action whenever there is a possible violation of fundamental rights itemized in Chapters 1 and 2 of the constitution of Pakistan. Former chief Justice of Pakistan Justice ® Iftikhar Muhammad Chudhary is known for taking a good advantage of this constitutional right and used it to much of his heart’s content and public welfare and now the incumbent Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Saqib Nisar seems to have taken the same course to ensure the provision of justice to common masses.
Over the past several months, the honourable justice has taken suomotu action against over a number of cases related to public interest that including the exorbitant fee charged in medical colleges, pathetic conditions at government hospitals, use and sale of substandard stents, sale of substandard packaged milk in the markets and excessive fees charged by private medical and dental colleges. Though these suomotu actions taken by the superior court had provided a substantial relief to common masses but at the same time these actions had generated a huge debate in legal circles as there is feeling that the actions taken by the apex court have injected uncertainty and unpredictability in the judicial system but the fact remains that there is no harm in exercising suomotu jurisdiction if the relevant government departments and people at the helm of affairs fail to discharge their legal and moral responsibilities and obligations regarding the protection of fundamental rights of citizens.
However, it is imperative that all institutions of the country should work under the ambit of constitution and while exercising the suomotu jurisdiction the superior judiciary must bear in mind that its actions must not in any way hamper the executive’s policies. So far as the public interest litigation initiatives undertaken by the chief justice are concerned, the Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi during his recent meeting has pledged his full support to the CJP. He assured that all steps would be taken to materialise the CJP’s vision with respect to free education, public health, improvements in government hospitals and provision of quality and affordable health services, revamping medical education especially in private medical colleges, provision of clean drinking water, better sanitation and protection of environment etc. One hopes that this meeting as the CJP had said would yield positive fruits.